Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mind Your Mortgage Review

“Mind Your Mortgage” by Robert Bernabe is a great resource for both people searching for their first mortgage and people who already have a mortgage. Like he says in the book, most things we purchase the prices are cut and dry. But with mortgages, the companies can present the fees in a way that you are not sure what you are paying for and it is important to shop around to make sure you are getting the best deal.

I have worked in the Real Estate appraisal business for 20 years and have seen first hand the downfalls of using your mortgage in the wrong way.
Even if your mortgage broker tells you they can help you lower your payments and save money, in most cases after the fees are added you don’t end up saving as much as you thought and may have added additional years and interest charges to your mortgage.

In the past few years too many people used their houses as an ATM machine. When the interest rates went down, people refinanced their homes and took some of the equity out as cash. In some cases, they used this money for purchases such as vacations, swimming pools and other items they could not have afforded otherwise. But in some cases they added additional years onto their mortgage which also adds interest.
He also reminds us not to rely on your home as a retirement plan. When the values go up you may have quite a bit of equity in your home. But when values drop like they have in the last few years so does your equity.

By adding just a little to your mortgage principal each month, over time can make a big difference in the amount of interest you end up paying on your mortgage.
I would highly recommend “Mind Your Mortgage”, as a resource to understand how to shop for a mortgage.

I am a member of the blogger book review for Thomas Nelson Publishers. I received a copy of the book for the review. I did not receive payment for this review.

ISBN: 1595550887
ISBN-13: 9781595550880
Format: Trade Paper
Trim Size: 5.40 x 8.10 x 1.10
Style#: 9781595550880
Page Count: 320

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Summer Reading Programs

I know it may be difficult to get children to read during the summer, but it is important to keep them in the habit of reading. Following are some reading programs available. Some of these are national and some are for Fargo Moorhead Libraries, etc. You can also search your local libraries for Summer Reading Programs.

Scholastic Summer Reading Program

RRV Fair Read and Win Program
Love to read? Enter the Red River Valley Fair's Read and Win Program! Children between the ages of 6-11 are eligible to participate. All you have to do is read 10 books, have the reading verified by a teacher, parent, guardian, or librarian, and mail in your completed from by June 1, 2010. All children who enter before June 1 will receive one gate entry pass and an official Ribbon Bookmark from the International Association of Fairs & Expositions.

Barnes and Noble Reading Program

Participation is fun and an easy way for kids to earn free books. They simply read any eight books – library books, books borrowed from friends or books bought at Barnes & Noble – write about their favorite part, and bring a completed tear page to a Barnes & Noble bookstore. Children then choose their free book from a list of paperback titles.
Our 2010 program features Scholastic's best-selling multi-media adventure series 'The 39 Clues®'. Authors Rick Riordan, Gordon Korman, Peter Lerangis, Jude Watson, Patrick Carman, Linda Sue Park, and Margaret Peterson Haddix will make appearances at select stores across the country, and will also participate in a Summer Reading blog at Barnes & (, where they will post about summer reading memories and children's literacy. The free program kicks off in Barnes & Noble stores across the country May 25 and continues through September 6. Teachers, parents and children can download the Summer Reading materials for free at

Fargo Library Reading Program
Make a Splash at our Summer Bash!

Join us Thursday, June 3, on the lawn at the Main Library as we kick off the 2010 Summer Reading Program with a carnival bash! From 4 to 7 p.m. we'll have games, food, entertainment, and more! Take a toss at the dunk tank, enjoy some ice cream, or get a workout in the Bounce N Slide. Then laugh along with ventriloquist James Wedgwood and comic magician Kristoffer Olson. Kids, teens, and families are invited to help us start the summer with a splash! Check back soon for more information on all the activities we have planned during this year's Summer Reading Program

West Fargo Library Reading Program
June 1st – July 31st
• Program is geared for Kindergarten through 8th Grade
• Goal is to enhance reading skills with fun programs and crafts
Students must sign-up for Summer Reading Program in order to participate in the following activities:

"Be Creative" Kick-Off
June 1st
Library tours, program sign-up, and explanation of Summer reading program.

Craft Times
1:00 – 2:30
Take-home crafts, help in choosing books, update journals, turn in reading log. Pre-registration is required for craft activities.

June 1 Door Hangers
June 8 Design your own Cup Drink
June 15 Make Guatemalan Worry Dolls
June 22 Flower Pot (Picture Holder)
June 29 Science Frames (Magnet)
July 6 Heart Pins (Photo)
July 13 Wooden Spinners
July 20 Painted Sun Catcher Mobile

Cass Clay Imagination Library
In 1996, Dolly Parton launched an exciting new effort to benefit the children of her home county in east Tennessee. Dolly wanted to foster a love of reading among her county’s preschool children and their families. She wanted children to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create. Moreover, she could insure that every child would have books, regardless of their family’s income.

So she decided to mail a brand new, age appropriate book each month to every child under 5 in Sevier County. With the arrival of every child’s first book, the classic The Little Engine That Could ™, every child could now experience the joy of finding their very own book in their mail box. These moments continue each month until the child turns 5—and in their very last month in the program they receive Look Out Kindergarten Here I Come.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Saving Money by Checking out Your local Library

Another way to save money on entertainment, is to check out your local library. When you think about libraries, most people think about books. You can check out all kinds of books from the library - how-to, personal finance, fiction, cooking, children's books - you name it. Any time you hear about a book that sounds interesting, you can always check your library first. Most libraries in the country have inter-library loan systems, so if they don't have the book you want, they can get it. Not only are you saving money by not buying books, but sometimes you can learn things from them that may allow you to save more money. It is also great for books you will only read once or you can read the book and decide if it is worth purchasing. Many times I do end up purchasing a book but like to check it out first to make sure I am interested in buying it.

This can also help you control clutter in your home, if you check books out of the library instead of buying all of the books you are interested in reading. This is helpful for books you need for reference just once in awhile.

The library also has videos, DVD's, CD's, and magazines. There are book clubs, interesting speakers, and stimulating children's programs. Many libraries also offer movie viewings for kids. It's also a great place to access the internet if you don't have access at home. There are also classes on different topics such as computer programs, teaching people how to use computers, and other courses. Your library may also have private study rooms. Some also have meeting rooms either for rent or some are free for non profit organizations.

Most libraries now have access online that you can check availability of books, movies and other items and are able to reserve and renew items online. They may also have ebooks that you can download. Some libraries also either have book sales a few times a year or have books for sale all year long as a fundraiser. These books are either copies taken from the shelves or they have been donated by citizens.
Many libraries are also looking for volunteers, to help with shelving, and other duties. If you are looking for a volunteer opportunity this may be something to look into.

With a little research you can find out what a treasure trove your local library can be.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Buying a House Means More than Just a House Payment

The All American Dream is to own a home of your own. Many people think that paying rent is a waste of money. But when you do buy a house, you have more expenses than when you rent that many people do not consider. The monthly house payment may be similar to your rent payment but you will have utilities that may have been included in your rent payment. When you own a home, you have utility bills, garbage and water bills. You either have to do your lawn work and snow removal, or have it hired out which is another expense. Also, you have to have money saved for unexpected expenses and regular upkeep and repairs. When you rented, if something went wrong you could call the landlord. Now it is up to you to either fix it or you have to hire someone to do it. While renting the landlords were responsible for updating the carpet and painting. Now that is your responsibility. There will also be increased insurance expenses.

When you buy, in most cases you need a down payment besides your monthly mortgage payments. It is recommended to have as high a down payment as you can. If you do not put 20% down, you will have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). In recent years, in many cases people have been able to get a mortgage without having to put any or very little money down.

It is recommended if you are thinking of buying a house, to put that amount of your anticipated monthly mortgage payment away, while you are still paying rent. If you can do this consistently for 6 months or so, you should be able to afford your mortgage payment.

Many people end up in homes they can’t afford when the beginning payments are too easy. In some cases, there are interest only mortgages. That in the first years you pay only interest on the mortgage. In these cases, you do not build any equity and in some cases when the market goes down, the value of your house could go down and you end up owing more on your house than it is worth. When this happens and you have to sell for some reason you would then have to come up with the difference.

A couple may think they can afford the house because they can make the payments but if something happens that they lose one of the incomes then they get into trouble. Experts say that younger people are living in homes and own cars that took their parents 30 years to afford.

So while owning a home is a great thing, it is also important to make sure you can afford it, so it does become a dream instead of a nightmare.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Every Little Bit Makes A Difference

One way to see what you spend is to track your expenses for a week. Either have a small notebook that you keep track of everything you spend money on. Or keep track of your receipts and add them up each evening. This helps you see what you spend money on and which expenses may be able to be cut. It shows how small expenses can add up to larger ones.

It’s important to watch large expenses but it is just important to keep track of smaller expenses. A dollar or two here and there can add up to be larger expenses.
If you find expenses you can cut, you can apply that money to pay off your debts.
On the other hand, just adding a little more to the minimum amount due on credit card payments can make a big difference. As an example with a balance of $3,000, the minimum payment due is $90. Making that payment, it would take 11 years to pay it off and you would end up paying an estimated total of $4,745. If you increased the payment to $103, you could have it paid off in 3 years and pay a total of $3,712. By paying an extra $13 a month, you would save $1,033. Many people think they are doing alright by just paying the minimum amount requested. In most cases, this amount barely covers the interest and finance charges so it takes years to gain any ground in paying off the balance. When you do this, you end up paying several times the original cost of the items you purchased. If you bought those items on sale, it didn’t end up being such a great deal if you have to make payments on it for several years.

This is a concept similar to compound interest. You can start by saving a small amount, but if you keep adding the interest to it each month, it can add up to a substantial amount over time. On the other hand, if you owe money the interest keeps accumulating each month on the amount due.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Budgeting Presentation

I did a presentation on budgeting to a group this afternoon.

The topics included budgeting and other topics including some of the dangers of credit. The difference in pay off time of credit cards when you add just a little to the minimum amount requested by the credit card company.

Saving up for things you want instead of having to have instant gratification. Sometimes when you save up for something, by the time you save the amount in many cases you may have changed your mind.

The dangers of payday loans, 90 days same as cash and rent to own.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Review of Friendship for Grownups

Friendship for Grownups by Lisa Whelchel

Lisa is currently a part of Women of Faith and an author. I grew up watching her as Blair on The Facts of Life. This is the first of her books that I have read, but am looking forward to reading more of them. Growing up while being on a television show didn’t give her much of a chance to make friends besides with her cast mates.

The book chronicles the struggles she had trying to make friends since being done with the show and how to trust people. She describes situations that are familiar to many of us, the difficulty of making friends when you are an adult. Some people she considered good friends and they ended up turning against her.

Three of the lessons she explains are 1) It is Okay to be needy; 2) It is important to be needy with safe people and 3) It is helpful to know who the safe people are. It took her years to realize it is okay to need people sometimes.
I think the subtitle describes the book very well “ What I Missed and Learned Along the Way”.

“Friendship for Grownups” was a great read and I highly recommend it.

Thomas Nelson publishers ISBN: 978-1-4002-0277-5

(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their [...] book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.")  

Monday, May 3, 2010

Book Review of Plan B

Plan B – What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show up The Way You Thought He Would?

Plan B is written by Pete Wilson who is the lead pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN. Plan B is a compilation of stories of Pete’s life and of other people he has known and how sometimes things don’t turn out the way you think or hope they would. He also relates these situations to stories in the Bible.

Three of the questions he asks are 1) What do you do when your dreams are shattered? 2) What do you do when your life isn’t turning out the way you thought? 3) What do you do when you have to turn to Plan B?
Many circumstances in life happen are out of our control, i.e. health issues such as cancer, divorce, loss of a child or unable to conceive. The book shows that if you look at things differently you can find a Plan B when your life doesn’t seem to be turning out the way you thought it would.

The book consists of separate stories so it can be read when you have spare time, but it is so interesting you may not be able to put it down.

I highly recommend Plan B as a resource to see there is a way to handle things when you lose hope and feel like things are out of your control.

I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Blogger Book Review program.